DIY Rice Play Table


We've been playing with rice for awhile now. Every time I get out our little bowl Silas gets so excited and wants to immediately sink his hands into it. Except that over the months as I've swept up that same cup of rice to use again and again, it's gotten quite dirty and my little guy really has outgrown such a small amount. He's ready to move on to bigger and better things, so I decided that it was high time Silas had a dedicated place to do all the digging, scooping, and pouring that he loves to do. A different kind of experience (and a different kind of mess) than either sand or water, we now have a table just for rice play.


Luckily, I was able to use mostly found objects and only had to purchase the rice and the hardware to put it all together. I started with an under-the-bed storage container that my parents bought for me almost 15 years ago (!) when I was leaving for college. The four legs were salvaged off of a shelving unit, but you could easily use legs from a thrifted footstool or small table. The cheapest rice I could find was at my Asian market where it was 75 cents a pound. I bought the 40 pound bag (because it was the cheapest per pound), but only used about half of it in the table. So, we have plenty to refill...or eat. Finally, I used 12 each of bolts, washers, and nuts, costing just over three dollars, making the grand total for the project around $20. Silas and I started putting it together this afternoon and he was playing with it by dinner time.


You may have to improvise slightly as there will be variations in your legs and hardware, I'm sure. I started by using a sharpie to mark the holes of the legs on the bottom of the container.


Then, using a drill bit that was just a hair smaller than my bolts, I drilled 12 holes, three for each leg.


I put the bolts in through the inside of the container so that they would be flat inside and stick out the bottom. The fit was pretty tight, so I used the electric screwdriver to put them all through before attaching any of the legs. These bolts are actually way too long, yours can and probably should be shorter. I'm just terrible at measuring, so these are what came home with me from the hardware store. They really only need to be long enough to go through the thickness of the bin, the plate of the leg, and with just enough room to screw on the nut.


Now, put the legs over the bolts and hand-tighten the nuts. When everything is in place tighten all the nuts with a wrench.


Flip the whole thing over, add your rice, and commence playing! There are several things that I really love about this. I love the height that it's at. Silas likes to stand while playing and this lets him move around very easily. I love that with the lid on (which also keeps out buggies and water) it transforms into a table on which he can build with blocks or play with cars. But mostly, I love to watch the way he plays with the rice.


We have it on the porch right now, but it can easily be moved inside when the weather turns cold. I'm trying to figure out what sort of drop cloth that I'd like to put under it...something that I could use to easily reclaim spilled rice and return it to the bin. Maybe a little mat made out of some outdoor/waterproof fabric?


My heart melts with the absolute delight with which he immerses himself in his play.Whether it's digging with a shovel or with his hands, he approaches both with gusto. One of his favorite things is to sink his hands beneath the grains and have papa bury him almost up to his elbows. Squeals and foot stomps of joy.


I will be honest with you, this is a messy activity. Be prepared to vacuum or sweep often. I try to demonstrate the "rules" of the rice table for Silas when we play together and I reinforce them verbally while he is playing alone. Expect, "The rice stays in the bin, please!" or some variation thereof to be said almost constantly. But, it's worth it to see the smile on his face and to know what a world of good all that sensory play is doing for him.

16 comments:

  1. Thanks for the great tutorial! Are you going to do homeschooling with Silias? We're doing montessori style homeschooling and this a very montessori activity. :)

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    1. We're considering homeschooling. I think I'm more sold on the idea than Steve is at this point. :) If I did homeschool, Montessori would definitely find its way into what we did, I'm sure!

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  2. Awesome! Our children's museum has a rice table that Phoebe loves. I was just thinking yesterday that I should build one for the summer. And now, maybe I will! Thanks!

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  3. Wonderful! Thanks for the tutorial! When Kate was that age, our coffee table was just the right height for her to play like Silas does. We would fill metal pans with beans, rice, beads, all the fun rattly stuff that kids like. Of course, we would watch her carefully to help her not put things that would choke in her mouth! She had such fun! Enjoy your table!

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  4. This is such a great idea. We have a sandbox that is filled with sand that a neighbor gifted us (they were leveling the ground for an above-ground pool, and way over-estimated the amount of sand they'd need). We love the sandbox, but sand sticks to everything. This would be a great alternative. And I love the idea of using an under-the-bed Rubbermaid with a tight-fitting lid.

    Silas is so cute I could just eat him up. Seriously.

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  5. What a lovely idea. This is just awesome. I love how this is such a simple thing to construct, and cheap, yet infinitely useful. I'm sure your little guy is having tons of fun! And I never thought about that you can actually put legs on a plastic container. Seriously - really neat!

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  6. So much fun!!! We have played with rice tables at different events, but I have never thought to make one. Way to go mama!!!

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  7. Kids really do love pouring rice! As a preschool teacher, I have varied the types of things in the bin. In the winter snow is really fun, especially with a food coloring sprayer. On hot days, water and ice (food colored ice is particularly fun)! When my kids were little and we were stuck inside on rainy winter days I would fill a plastic tub with warm water and we would add food coloring to warm water and have fun pouring it in various containers. A plastic waterwheel toy that is usually sold as a summer sand toy works well with rice and water too! In spring I've put organic potting soil and plastic trucks (dump trucks, excavators) in the sensory table. Afterwards you and your child can use the potting soil to plant seeds! With preschoolers that are learning to use scissors it can be fun to fill the bin with colorful odds and ends of paper and let them snip with no end result in mind other than having fun mastering scissors. The one warning I have to offer is no beans until after the age of about 4. I had a student stick a bean up his nose and he had to be taken to the doctor to have it removed. I have since read an article saying that toddlers can inhale beans causing serious medical problems.

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  8. I love this idea! I'm so glad you shared it. I tend to make DIY projects so complicated. I love how simple this is. And I think I have all the items at home already! I may give it a try this weekend.

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  9. This is great! I tried letting my daughter play with rice in a large tub in the kitchen...was pretty messy! Thanks for sharing.

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  10. Flannel backed vinyl tablecloths work beautifully under tables like this, and the summer ones will be going on clearance soon. If you don't want to use vinyl, denim and canvas are good alternatives but will get wet and need to be dried.

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    1. Denim sounds like a wonderful solution! Thanks for the suggestion!

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  11. This is such a great idea. I found your blog from the Crafty Crow and now I'm subscribing. I hope you will consider homeschooling. It sounds like you would be well suited for it.
    ; 0 )

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  12. Brilliant Idea, my water table is looking well used but I haven't thought of using it for anything else, will give this some thought.

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  13. Love this! Have you tried using it as a water table as well? Wondering if it would leak?

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  14. Oh, I definitely want to make this! Thank you for sharing such a great idea!

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